Best Practices?

I’m new to audio work and have been working with Audacity for about a year. I’m recording a book, one chapter at a time then using Audacity to clean everything up, add bed music and effects.

I’ve worked with most of the Audacity effects (amplify, noise reduction, equalization, compressor, tempo, etc.). While I can change the original audio track a great deal, I feel like I’m still muddling around and not using a consistent approach.

Do any of you experienced audio folks have a standard approach to editing a raw piece of audio? Should noise removal be used first, or amplify then remove noise? Should I use a compressor to even up levels or the leveler?

When you are starting with a new file, what sequence of editing steps do you use or feel is the most productive?

I like what can do with Audacity, but I think I can do much better work if I had some kind of system.

Thanks for any suggestions you can share.

I started writing this twice.

What are you doing that requires that many tools? That’s the tool list required for a very badly damaged, irreplaceable recording, not one that you produced live under carefully controlled conditions.


You didn’t mention noise gate, Steve made one which you can download from here (free).
Gates attenuate the noise (down to true silence if required) when the audio falls below a threshold. Very useful for cleaning up.

[other gates are available, e.g. GGate ]

Sorry Koz, perhaps I was unclear.

The list I provided in the post was of the various effects I’ve used at one time or another, not the typical list I use.

The recordings I’m working with are produce in a quiet, well insulated area and generally don’t have a lot of background noise. I do, however, see a fair amount of “mouth sounds” (clicks, breathing). Not terrible, but worth editing out.

I also see a fair amount of variation in volume due to my habit of trailing off at the end of a paragraph.

What I am looking for is just some insights into the the best sequence of effects (when needed) or a general work-flow suggestion.

Currrently, I typically record, apply amplification up to .9, do mouth sound removal, do overall noise removal, export.

Thanks Trebor,

I’ll download now.

You might try Chris’s Compressor.

Chris’s Compressor

Unlike the compressors and limiters inside Audacity, Chris is “musical.” I bet that goes a long way to evening out the volume variations of the performance. Even better, once you have a set of settings you like, you can apply it to all your performances and they should all come out similar. You may be able to miss some of the other steps as well.


What might work for some, might not work for others…

Pick one of your recordings (one that you feel you need to apply several effects) and try applying those effects using different workflows. Save the end result for each workflow. Compare all of them and see which one produced the better result. You can also time it and see which one works faster.

Thanks bgravato, I understand what you’re saying. I’ll try a few tests and listen.

Koz, I like Chris’ Compressor. It sound natural.

I’ll keep practicing and trying to improve the overall production quality. I’m still picking up on the little tips.

Thanks for the insights.

It’s much easier to deal with those with better microphone technique and speaking technique. If you work on those then you won’t have to do so much post-production.

Work further away from the mic (to minimize the lip-smacking noises). Speak louder (as if you are talking to someone across the room). Practice not trailing off at the end of paragraphs. Imagine your are on stage in a play - everyone in the theatre needs to be able to hear every word you say. This takes practice. You want to sound natural and conversational (not theatrical, unless that is your intent) while at the same time ensuring that your original recording is the best you can make.

– Bill